All the things I don’t know about boats

This is part rant, part story, so bare with me as I take you on an adventure that only I can.

If you’re new to the saga, please I recommend you go back to the first post and see why all this is happening — this is a crucial link to where I say that my wife and I know nothing about boats.

If you know a lot about boats, please read all this ironically and try to empathise with us poor mortals how still don’t know how to pronounce gunwale.

Evolution and the internet

As a software engineer, my life, sanity and job rides on the amazing generosity of knowledge that is contributed by the developer community.

Open source, knowledge sharing, frequently asked questions and sites like abound and give other developers prestige and valuable exposure to show the world how awesome they are.. er.. I mean help people solve problems that they’re not sure how to fix.

Companies are investing billions of dollars into these communities and in return we’re raising up entire armies of new engineers and entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, while computers are a modern phenomena, the humble boat date back before we actually knew that time existed.

The first semi-aquatic life-form accidentally jumped on a leaf and scooted to the other side of the pond.. with primitive glee, it discovered new, uncharted territory and a better place to evolve.

The ‘modern man’ used primitive boats to cross rivers and channels to get to shelter and hunting grounds and the people of the pacific islands learned to traverse great distances using their lashed together twin hull boats.

The history of the world, of colonisation and our spread across the globe is attributed to the humble water craft.

Someone named Steve

People who know boats usually know them from an early age. They group up around the water, grew up around people who knew boats — others buy into the luxury and the knowledge of a dealer that can help them make their first baby steps into the big blue.

When something goes wrong, these people know someone to ask, who will inevitably give them the phone number (land line) of someone who’s named e.g. Steve who lives on the north shore.

This isn’t actually Steve, it’s an open source image of someone like Steve.

He usually doesn’t have a website — if he does, it says something like “Steve Does Boats — For all repairs and service of boats, installation of rocket launchers, fabrication, transom rebuilds and fibreglass work — Call my Landline number”.

Steve also still has his fax machine number pride and place on his letterhead.

Sorry.. but what the f#@$ is a rocket launcher?

Why is it as important as the repair and service of my boat?

A little bit of googling leads me to realise this has something to do with fishing rods — everyone is excited about them, there are forums about them.

How big should my rocket launcher be? How high should it be? How many rods should it hold? What angle is best?

It took me 10 minutes (that’s about 3 years in web time) to find a site that told me WHAT a rocket launcher was and why I would need one — without trying to sell me one.

02–91…. how do I dial a phone again? It’s been years.

I recently called on a Steve aka an unknown, unlisted boat know-it-all (don’t mean that in a derogatory sense!) because I was struggling to find anyone who would look at my trailer.

It’s a big-arse boat on a big-arse trailer.

Surely.. surely.. one of these know-it-alls knows all about it, right?


“Sorry mate, we don’t do trailers. Call a trailer mechanic.”

SO.. I called a trailer mechanic.. actually I called over 12 of them (note, I called because they don’t have websites like the rest of the modern world).

“Sorry mate, we don’t do boat trailers. Call a boat mechanic.”

Finally, I got onto another Steve (fifth time lucky) who seemed to know both.

He came out, walked around the boat then started asking me what I wanted to do with the boat (fair question).

“What sort of fit-out are you going for?”

“What sort of fishfinder/transducer(?) are you going to put on.”

“Are you going to replace the bimini?”

“Where will all the seats go?”

“How far our are you wanting to go?”

And most importantly — “What engines are you planning to put on it?”

He reckoned I needed 2x 250hp motors (double the recommended from the boat manufacturer) but that didn’t matter because it’d go faster.

With a heavy and beaten heart, I confessed that I didn’t know what I wanted yet and that I didn’t have the budget to do it all straight away, I wanted to work on it myself — I just wanted someone to fix the trailer so I can move it.

He laughed.

“Don’t worry about the trailer, mate. Tell me what you want to do, we’ll tow it to my place, do the work and at the end you can take it anywhere you want.”

I asked if he had any opinions.

“Nah mate, it’s your boat, everyone sets them up differently — you tell me what you want and we’ll do it.”

Now, I’m not saying this guy is wrong — He was super-friendly, super-helpful and had I the money to just say “here is $50k, please make my dream boat” I probably would!

BUT.. it’s how he’s used to working.. heck it’s the SANE way to build a boat!

I rang back to ask if he could just do the trailer, but he said he doesn’t want to because he would only do that if he can work on the boat. He knows that’s where the money is. Smart man.

Back to the drawing board.. I mean the Yellow Pages.

Like an engineer

So, I decided to approach the boat like a software engineer — the agile way.

  • I created boards on Trello, e.g. Cosmetics, Electric, Engines, Safety etc.
  • Each board has 4 columns: Preparation — Ready — Doing — Done.
  • Each task (around 100) was given a title and an estimate of effort.
  • I set up a daily email to ask me “What can you unblock today”
  • I prioritised the tasks

Let’s go! I picked up the first ‘ticket’ in preparation to work on it.

“Create a basic wiring diagram”

I have some knowledge of electronics, that’d be easy, right? I’ve done electrical diagrams before.

So I went looking for websites telling me what I needed to know.


Just kidding.

There are about 3 websites online that detail how to complete a rewire of a power boat.

There are another 3 dedicated to sail boats and all of them refer to books that are either a) out of print or b) have to be ordered from overseas from a used bookshop — All of these books give me advice on how to hook up by non-led lights and how to wire a fax machine into a yacht.

They seem to quote sets of wiring standards that have to be ordered over the PHONE and posted to me — why are there no PDF’s of this stuff?

How about an online course?

Udemy? Masterclass? Lynda? Don’t be ridiculous.

So I jumped on some boating/fishing forums — because that’s always helpful *snicker*.

“You just need to call this guy, Dave. He does good work.”

“Call Terry, he helped me out — threw in a case of beer and he did it on a sunday.”

“Don’t know about all that electronics stuff… just that it works. This guy named Harry who works out of his garage helped me.”

The year is 2017.

According to

  • As of this second we have 3,542,240,068 internet users.
  • There are 1,133,586,388 websites.
  • There were 2,904,587 blog posts written today.
  • We transfer 640TB of data every single minute on the internet.
  • We’ve digitised entire libraries.
  • We make millions of credit card transactions every minute.
  • Every industry and sector in the world is pushing heavily online.

So, why the flying fish does the accumulated boating knowledge of our entire species hang on a guy named Terry — who does extra work if there’s beer involved — and can charge whatever he wants (justified) and has a waiting list because he knows that no-one can get this information without him?

  • Where’s the knowledge sharing?
  • Where’s the help groups and the experts who possibly charge for online advice?
  • Where’s the diagrams and tutorials?
  • Where’s the online courses?

If you’re a venture capitalist reading this, there’s my pitch.

I’ve got the skills and the drive — let’s talk. We can help the entire world with their boats and get thousands more people into the water — AND I can look great in the process.

And maybe.. maybe I might just finish this fricking boat.